The Story of Begged, Borrowed & Stolen

The Story of Begged, Borrowed & Stolen

Back in the late 1970’s I was still working as a lab technician at South Australia’s Flinders University Medical Centre, working in the area of Electron Microscopy.  I loved the job and the people I was working with at the time.

The area was chronically under-resourced and part of almost every day was scouting other departments for bits of equipment or glassware, chemicals etc we needed.  Of course we all promised faithfully to return them once we’d finished. 

To make sure everything went back to the Department that had loaned it to us, I wrote everything down in a small notebook I kept in my lab coat pocket.

Many of my evenings were spent in playing music with the Celtic Music Club or other musicians, either at our home in Birdwood or at theirs.  We were all in various stages of learning about music, learning to read it, learning our instruments and learning to play the tunes.  Everyone had a cache of tunes written down on little scraps of paper.  These scraps were frequently photocopied and passed along, getting fainter by the day.

I had the bright idea of collating them all into an easily read book which all could afford.  We canvassed which tunes were the most popular in Adelaide, (and Melbourne and Canberra) and I spent hundreds of hours painstakingly transcribing the tunes from the scraps of paper. I wanted the tunes to be easily read, even by beginners, and for the book to open flat.  I’d had enough of squinting at a book on the floor, written in miniscule script and held open by one foot.

So the idea for the tune book was to have three tunes on one page (sometimes two), in a very easy-to-read format, in a spiral bound book that did not need to be held open by feet, clothes pegs or other makeshift methods. 

At odd intervals in my working day, I’d jot down the names of tunes that might be included in the book.  This I did in the back of the little notebook I was already using daily to note what needed to be returned to various departments at FMC.

The time eventually came when the work was done.  Chris O’Connor had put basic chords to the tunes, the bright orange cover had been chosen and the Forword and Introduction written: it was time to find a name for the book.

Various names were considered and rejected until one day I flipped the little notebook over and saw what I’d written on the cover.  Begged, Borrowed & Stolen.  Perfect.

By the way, in 1979 the price of the book was $3.95.  Forty-some years later, it’s $25.00.  You can buy BB&S here